Friday, February 11, 2011

The Power in Passive

I'm going to let this short video speak for itself--and I do hope you take a minute to watch it--it's Red leading Beautiful Girl from about 60 or 70 feet away.

I've been trying to upload The Good, The Bad and The Ugly--Cowgirl and Beautiful Mustang, but blogger keeps rejecting it. So, I'm skipping ahead to Day #4 of Beautiful back with the herd.

I'd decided to put Cowgirl away on Day #3 and #4 because the turnout was slick and I didn't want either one of them falling as they continued their chase. Plus, she's a bit on the fat side, as is Shadow, and she needed some time with us to work on her own boundary issues. This allowed Beautiful alone time with Red, Cia and Cowboy.

What I found, watching them, is that my filly, Cia, is also a passive leader. I imagine she'll be the one who fills that role when Red dies. I was so impressed with her.

A little set-up to the scene: Our pastures are subdivided, and to that point, Beautiful hadn't been in the west or the front--just the back. From my observations, horses like to maintain as much control and order as possible, so Red and Cia knew immediately, as my husband walked to open the west gate, they needed to set the tone for Beautiful to explore, but not go running through fences or otherwise acting crazy.

You'll see a few things: 1.) Red let's Cia pass through the gate, but not Beautiful, 2.) Red walks off and turns his back to Beautiful, leaving the gate fully open to her, but he is still sending quiet signals to her not to pass through. I didn't tape much of that because it wasn't until in retrospect I realized it was the most important part of the whole day of filming. It looked boring to me until I realized what was going on and how amazing it was and what it means for me. Though it's a very short clip, it lasted probably fifteen minutes or more, 3.) Last, you'll see Beautiful nip the hind end of Cia and Cia not react. This often happens, Cia doesn't react, and it in no way threatens her control or place in the herd over Beautiful. Oddly enough, it shows a different kind of strength that she's so secure, she doesn't have to react. Like, Um, that's just pathetic. (Sorry, I didn't let the video speak for itself like I said I would.)

I think this little clip demonstrates very well the POWER of passive leadership. The kind of control Red exercises is quiet--to an onlooker, it doesn't appear he's doing anything at all. Yet, he has almost total control of our mustang's every move.

Is it really so easy? Could it require that little effort from us, too, if we became passive leaders?

Do less, get more....I kind of like that.

Hey, I went to Youtube and uploaded, The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly! Yay! If you have time, you might want to watch this one, too. It's a great comparison about how much energy is expended with the Alpha Mare form of leadership, and it's just darn interesting to see the mare battle. On Day #5 (after two days separated) the battle was non-existent. Beautiful's place in the herd was secure and Cowgirl didn't feel as threatened.


  1. I love your blog! I was just reading about Red and I'm pretty sure he must be the long lost brother of my old AQH Clyde! I look forward to reading more in the future.

  2. Wonderful stuff - glad you were able to capture it. I love how much can be accomplished by doing so little.

  3. Linda, I think Cowgirl is threatened by BG's beauty! This is like watching an equine version of a 7th grade clique, and the newcomer is shunned. It's really amazing to watch. Did this go on all day? And do I understand it right that Cowgirl has settled down now?

    BTW, your films have become my family's daily matinee, we are enjoying them. Oh and we love the musical score :)

  4. I can't help but wonder if one of the horses could do the commentary on this if they would have a different take on this. LOL

  5. Mikael--I actually thought about that very thing, and I think most definitely they would have a different take. It would go something like this, "That Mustang you brought into us is spoiled rotten, and she's going to get us all killed if we don't teach her some manners fast!" Something like that, I think. Because, as I've been going out, I've seen my sweet little Mustang instigating a little hell out there in the herd. She wants to follow Red, but not Cowgirl.

  6. Joanne--that's great that your whole family is enjoying them! And, I think you're right that there is some jealousy between the mares, and who's going to be top "most popular" in our herd. Yep, it went on ALL day--this is just a little bit of it. We separated them, then put them back together and it's still going on in a milder form. Cowgirl, Red, and BG were out grazing together yesterday--very peaceful--I even took a picture--then BG started at something and ran away--which put Cowgirl on alert and she ran away, too. Red kept grazing. When Cowgirl stopped and looked back and saw that it was nothing, she chased off BG again and kept her away from the herd (and out where whatever scary thing occurred) for hours. By the end of the day, however, BG was dishing out the same type of thing to my sweet Omega, Cowboy. So, don't feel too sorry for her. ;)

  7. Kate--yes, I do feel lucky to have caught that on tape--Red controlling BG from afar. It was an eye-opener for me.

  8. Rachel, Thank you--I'm glad you like the topic. If Clyde was like Red, you were very lucky, indeed!

  9. More than just a battle of the mares, I think I'm seeing a lot of 'manners training' going on. Out in the wild herd, BG would not be allowed to approach the others with such attitude. The older mare would definitely chase her away until she learned to approach with some respect for the quiet of the herd. Red approaches it differently because he's a guy; but also because the mare is the top boss of a herd; the top stallion/gelding in the herd is the peace-keeper/protector - and in the wild, they tend to be passive, unless their herd is threatened by another stallion. They even do a lot of 'babysitting' of the youngsters, which might explain why BG would rather follow Red. So fun to watch the interactions and we love your movies and pictures, too. And yes, Red was controlling BG from afar.

  10. The quiet of the herd--well said. My little herd, each one, are all doing me a big favor right now. My friend once told me that her favorite horses to train were those that had been raised by horses, rather than humans. ;)


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